Growing Pains

I’m getting old, I tell myself as I peel back the wrapper of a Russel Stover s’mores in the grocery store. It’s funny how just yesterday I was on a walk and could smell roasting marshmallows and immediately the thought came to my mind of how much I wanted s’mores for myself.

Then, today, I’m walking through not one, but two stores, and I spy not one, but two packages of pre-packaged s’mores. Finally, I concede. At Albertson’s, I shell over the two bucks to buy the mini, convenient package for myself. I step outside, take off my mask, and take a bite of the sweet treat.

The first taste feels like a glimmer – a return to my childhood, of roasting marshmallows on the 4th of July, but once the taste envelopes my mouth, I recall it doesn’t taste as sweet as my memories and it tastes ironically just too sweet for my palate now.

I’ve been working with my inner child lately in between establishing a career; to me, these two contrasting endeavors fight for my attention at times. One part of me wants to take extremely long walks — to go farther than I’ve ever journeyed before, while the other part of me turns in yet another job application. A friend mentions the word growing pains to me and I think growing pains. Growing pains.

Is that what it means to grow up?

I’m trying to find the space to remember a job isn’t your identity as much as Americans continue to ask, “What do you do for a living?” I’m trying to grow through these pains, which I’ve found to be of me and not me.

So, today, I bought a sugary treat from the store. And when I got home, I decided to write this post, not sure why. It’s a bit different in style for me, but I’ve decided growing pains can be vulnerable, candid, hard, and soft at the same time.

Some days, it can be heavy, in unwinding an ever-constant process of healing.

Some days, it can be as light and simple as picking up s’mores from the store.

A Writer’s Fascination: Characters as Creation

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Like many other writers, I hold a fascination for the topic of inspiration, especially when it comes to developing characters. Some writers believe their character is a transient being who speaks to them and urges them to move to an entirely different state in order to record their story properly, while other writers believe that their characters belong entirely to them — that they are creations of their own will and will do whatever they are told to do. So, where do I stand on this topic?

Well, I certainly don’t believe a character is beholden to our pen as much as we’d like to believe they are. For me, a character arrives and makes their presence known in a number of ways. I’ve had characters arrive in dreams, in unconscious states, and in flashes of images. Then again, I’ve had characters arrive through voices and snippets of overheard dialogue. Usually, in my case, that’s where the work of discovering a character begins.

I begin to question the character and try to understand their motivation. Who are they? Why would they say this? What are they doing? What are their desires? And perhaps more importantly, why do they desire what they desire?

Each character, more often than not, arrives on my doorstep or in my consciousness in a different way, but the way I treat the character remains the same: with curiosity, compassion, and respect. I want to understand what they have to say without judgment. I want to know why they have chosen this moment to arrive and what it means to the story I am currently writing.

In this way, I am, as you might have guessed, a character-driven writer. I can’t begin a story without a character. In my stories, I develop the plot through the character’s motivations, desires, fears, and dreams. It is only through keeping an open ear that I am able to even begin writing a story. So, if I don’t know who the character I’m writing about is, well then I don’t have a story to write.

I need to walk in the character’s shoes. I need to truly understand them in order to even really begin.

So, what about you? How do you write your stories?

Do you believe characters run away with you or are they entirely under the control of your pen?

Tapping Into Inspiration

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One of the questions many writers, artists, and creators alike contemplate is where does inspiration come from. Is it within our blood? Do we stick a needle in our veins and funnel it all out when we create something new, whether it be a painting, a poem, or a story? Or, on the contrary, do we journey far to discover our inspiration in the ether? In this way, do we leave ourselves and go somewhere else in order to bring back some wisdom?

I believe there is no either-or for where inspiration comes from. I think we create from a communal source, shared between us all, but as the words flow, we channel our unique expression from this wellspring. Inspiration and creation occur from within and without, meaning that it funnels through our instruments and tools, but it also is accessed from the universal source we all share.

In this manner, I believe anyone can access the wisdom within this collective consciousness; all one needs to do is tap into that infinite stream of intelligence and inspiration. Then, as creators, we are tasked with the responsibility (and pleasure) of bringing something beautiful into this world.

I think at the end of the day our lives are rife with moments and circumstances, which push us into a place of creation. To imagine better possibilities. To dream less contemptible dreams. To take our hopes and channel them into something immediately accessible for all.

So, I suppose in this way, we all are tasked with the responsibility to create through the contrast we experience in order to experience brilliant new realities. An artist alone cannot herald this vision into the world alone. Rather, it is through each collective creation we make that we birth our own realities moment by moment.

Given this, my final question is this: where do you find inspiration and how do you cultivate it?

Magic in Secret Gardens

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One of my favorite novels is The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. This morning, I was thinking about one, among many reasons, why I love this novel. My favorite scene in this novel is when Mary, Colin, and Dickon walk into the blooming garden for the first time — their eyes awash in a rainbow of colors they cultivated together. Their secret garden, which at first appeared to be abandoned, dead, and lost now was fully immersed in brilliant bloom.

I suppose this scene in the novel brings me to tears every time because of its visible metaphor to life. For one, Mary sees herself in the secret garden as she herself is an orphan and for the longest time has felt unwanted and abandoned. Mary has been called sullen and contrary and life has provided sufficient evidence to her time and time again that she is unlovable, sour, and sullen, so she accordingly has believed it. And yet, this beautiful garden in bloom has provided Mary with proof that the stories she has told herself might not actually be the truth.

There’s intrinsic magic within this awakening to the beauty all the characters experience about the world around them. Colin, a sickly boy, opens his eyes to the garden and begins to believe in the magic of words and beautiful places. Together, the characters cultivate their magic through the lens of their secret garden and their friendship. Colin realizes his strength. Mary realizes she has always been loved and finds family in both Colin, Dickon, and Mr. Craven, Colin’s father. Through the imagination of these children, they are able to not only open their hearts to the beautiful possibilities of this world, but they are able to open the adults’ hearts around them, too.

In the end, the secret garden remains open in a perpetual bloom so all who come across the garden might witness the beauty of the children’s discovery, too.

A Moment Lasts Forever

I’ve always considered myself a big advocate for the power of the present moment and its seeming permanence despite its temporary, quickly passing nature. When I was younger, I, unlike many others my age, wanted moments to linger forever — my viewpoint perhaps was more nostalgic and romantic compared to my peers. I didn’t want to grow up or grow old; I wanted things to remain, more or less, the same. In this manner, I never could grasp the reasons why people and situations enter your life for seasons, only to depart and move forward on their own respective journeys.

Now, I’m beginning to understand the significance of the moment before me and the moments, which passed over the past few days and past few years. Every moment brought me to this day — to this now moment to unfold from. At the end of the day, I think that means the people who entered my life, if only for a season, could not stay forever because they were never meant to.

There is no tragedy in this passing. Rather, there is an intrinsic beauty in this greeting.

In more ways than one, this notion of goodbyes and hellos inspired much of the writing in my poetry collection Goodbye (Hello). I believe there is a circular nature in our lives and in our goodbyes and hellos. With every passing emerges a new arrival. Death begets life. The universe exists in a place consisting of opposites. Pain and beauty. Love and fear. Bloom and hibernation.

The more I lean into each season, the more I begin to understand how everything intrinsically is tied into this present moment.

And I suppose, in this way, every moment lasts forever.

Pearl Earrings & Prudence: On Tracy Chevalier’s Girl With a Pearl Earring

*There may be some potential spoilers revealed in this book review. Read at your own discretion.*

In Tracy Chevalier’s Girl With a Pearl Earring, the mythic quality of the muse comes to play. As a reader, one goes into this novel, understanding completely that this story couldn’t be farther from the actual truth of the inspiration behind Johannes Vermeer’s famous painting. Little is actually known about the inspiration, which led to the timely creation of Girl With a Pearl Earring. Even so, we as readers, buy into the myth because we want to. We want to understand the muse behind this renowned painting. We want to see her story unfold on the page.

Perhaps, above all else, this is one of the main reasons why Chevalier’s novel is successful. From the beginning of the story, the novel is painted not through Vermeer’s eyes, but rather through the eyes of our protagonist Griet — a maid from a modest family who is well aware of the restrictions, which singlehandedly mark her future and her stature in life. In this manner, Griet is wise beyond her years even as she is naïve and hopeful for a better future for herself where her livelihood will not be connected to marrying the butcher’s son.

For me, the most interesting scenes were the ones in which the reader began to see how Vermeer viewed the world through his painter’s eyes. Nevertheless, these scenes were a precious gem, which appeared few and far between compared to the other events at play within Griet’s life.

Suffice it to say, there still is something magical about this novel, which I’m having a hard time putting my finger on directly. I think it must be located within what we never had the chance to see directly unfold across the span of these pages; it must be isolated within the liminal space this novel consciously creates.

For one: the curiosity about the seemingly romantic relationship between Vermeer and Griet comes to mind. Although nothing ever directly came to pass between them, I still wonder about the few scenes they shared while Vermeer painted Griet with the pearl earring. Like Griet, I am saddened to hear about Vermeer’s death by the end of the novel. In more ways than one, I still occupy the same space Griet did as both the muse and the heroine who was curious about the power of this whimsical painter but simultaneously was still like any other woman for her time — a woman who, in time, would choose to give away the pearl earrings gifted to her in the name of prudence and some extra coins she will never come to use.

I’m not sure what this means at the end of the day, but I think there’s something incredibly lovely and important about all this. I believe there is a value in the intersections of Griet’s identity and how, if for but a moment, we as the reader have the chance to sit beside both the muse and the heroine.

Revelations from the In-Between

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the spaces of pause and recollection in our journeys — the moments when nothing actually appears to be occurring but is still bubbling and collecting from underneath the surface. The last few months have contained many of these moments for me where in one moment I feel pressed to make a choice and come to a decision about what I’m doing, and perhaps in this way, deciding who I am.

Along this journey, I’ve realized a lot more about who I am and what I’m passionate about — more or less what are the indicators of a life well-lived — one filled with passion, authenticity, integrity, creativity, and above all else unconditional love. After connecting with an old friend and inspiring another to pursue her dreams, I’ve come to the conclusion that I find joy in the smallest of places — in the melting hum of poetry, in open spaces of conversation, in long walks out in nature, in mentoring and teaching others how to take their words and put them onto the page. I’ve found peace in the smallest of things and the smallest of places — in knowing that wherever I’m going or whatever I’ve produced is not my greatest contribution to society, but rather, the meaningful memories and friendships and kind words I have shared with others; all of these things, for lack of a better word, are what I’m proud to cultivate within this place and within my life.

I believe there is power in the in-between for it is the place where all our wildest dreams and doubts and fears find a place to reside, but I have found solace here. So, I’ve decided I will continue to follow everything which lights me up, inspires me, and even terrifies me a little bit — to learn and grow through the contrast I experience and take these messages from the in-between with me every step of the way.

Fantasy Candle Out Now!

“Men, what exactly is the nature of Enlightenment?” he asks.

I clench my fist. I’ve heard this conversation countless times before.

The stories of men will always be the same. 

I never imagined I’d create a custom candle, let alone put out and publish this book or any of my books if I’m being honest. Months ago, if you asked me about any of this, I’d consider it ludicrous. 

I think for the longest time I convinced myself I wasn’t worthy of the words put to the page — that they held no weight or meaning. Now, three books later, I think I’ve realized how we all underestimate our abilities as dreamers and creators of our own realities. 

We convince ourselves we aren’t good enough or strong enough or creative enough because we’re secretly afraid of our luster and shine. I think in the most becoming way we’re secretly terrified of our most earnest desires for our lives.

So, in the nature of these stories, I’d like to offer an alternative — a manifest desire formed beyond this candle’s glow.

What if we shine? 

What if we write new stories and greet them at the door?

What if we dream of enlightenment? 

The Nature of Enlightenment, the custom candle, is now on sale! ✨

The Council of Amara Custom Candle

The Nature of Enlightenment, out January 14th.

I think I’ve always defined myself as an artist above all else and expression has been the one umbrella, which defines all the work I do.

When I decided to make a custom candle and collaborate with @wildblackthorn to bring all these ideas into reality, I remembered thinking to myself how can I add another layer to the stories I’ve created, how can I contemplate the scents I’ve layered in naturally as a writer and bring another touch of the ephemeral and physical for you as you read The Council of Amara.

As an artist, one of my favorite endeavors is to bring all ideas from the ether and into the physical. It’s my favorite part of what I do and it’s why I love the muse.

I wanted to capture the unseen in this candle. I wanted to capture the scent of enlightenment in this candle — of coffee shops where intellectuals wrote, of horses on a dirty, dusty bustling road, of a kind offering being made to a young, wide-eyed girl: a pair of old ladies gloves.

I wanted to trace the scent between intellectual and find the rough, heady undertones, which marked it all.

Perhaps, above all else, I wanted to follow Isla’s footsteps in the place between it all as she strived to follow the scents she had grown up with and find her way home to the nature of enlightenment as she understood it to be.

Mark your calendars. The Nature of Enlightenment will be yours on January 14th.